AUGUSTA, Maine — Angus King, the independent former governor, won the race to succeed retiring Republican senator Olympia Snowe Tuesday and said he is ‘‘fired up’’ and ready to head to Washington to try to serve as a bridge between the major parties.
The former two-term governor overcame challenges from Secretary of State Charlie Summers, a Republican, and state Senator Cynthia Dill, a Democrat, in an election with big implications for control of the Senate, in which Democrats held a slim edge going into Tuesday’s elections.
King had said he was inspired to run because Snowe described the Senate as broken. He cast himself as unbeholden to parties and able to broker compromise.
‘‘As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m neither naive nor arrogant enough to think I can go down there and do it all myself, and I don’t think they’re going to ask me how to run the place,’’ he said. ‘‘But I do think we’re going to begin the process that leads to real change and makes the place work for the people.’’
King was subjected to millions of dollars’ worth of attack ads. Addressing supporters in Freeport, he singled out Republican operative Karl Rove for a special thanks, saying negative ads by Rove’s super political action committee reinvigorated his supporters and donors.
Summers had vowed to restore ‘‘fiscal sanity’’ by cutting spending, reducing taxes, and bringing down the federal debt. Dill campaigned as a progressive who was eager to continue President Obama’s agenda.
Even as King addressed raucous supporters, neither Summers nor Dill conceded defeat.
Snowe, who has known King for years, called him to offer her congratulations and ‘‘anything I could do to assist him with a smooth transition.’’
The outsized amount of outside spending underscored the stakes in theSenate, where Democrats held a 51-47 majority with two independents who caucus with them.
King said he would be heading to Washington, D.C., next week to begin the orientation process. While it is widely assumed he will caucus with Democrats, he continued play his cards close to his vest.
‘‘I want to be the most effective senator on behalf of Maine, so I’ll be talking to anyone who wants to chat,’’ he said.
Also Tuesday, Maine’s two incumbent US representatives, Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud, breezed to new terms as they defeated state Senate leaders who sought to recapture for Republicans House seats long held by Democrats.
Pingree had 66 percent of the vote with 47 percent of the precincts in southern Maine’s First Congressional District counted, easily defeating Jon Courtney. In the Second District, Michaud had 60 percent of the votes in his race against Republican Kevin Raye with votes in 28 percent of the precincts counted.